The Sita Distribution Project is a public demonstration of how an artist can flourish — economically and artistically — by letting her works circulate for free. It’s not about self-distribution, it’s about audience-distribution: put the work out there, let people share it, give them the freedom to organize activities (both commercial and non-commercial) around it, and the artist will benefit, because audiences want to support artists. Our goal is a comprehensible, repeatable model that can be used by independent artists everywhere.
The test subject is artist Nina Paley (now our Artist-in-Residence), who released her award-winning, feature-length animated film Sita Sings the Blues to the world under a totally free license in early 2009. That’s free as in “freedom”: anyone can make copies, anyone can sell copies, anyone can hold a screening (for profit or otherwise), anyone can make related merchandise, no one needs to ask permission for anything.
Nina also put out a definitive jingle in the form of a children’s song, called Copying Is Not Theft. I’m not posting the clip because I’m not crazy about it (in fact, I find it rather annoying), but it does make a good point. I do like this other video of hers, “All Creative Work Is Derivative”:
And now a few words from the site’s FAQ:
Our mission is to educate the public about the history of copyright, and to promote methods of distribution that do not depend on restricting people from making copies.
. . .
Is copying a copyrighted work the same as stealing it?
If I steal your bicycle, now you have no bicycle. If I copy your song, now we both have it.
When the industry uses loaded words like “stealing,” “theft,” and “piracy,” they are using linguistic tricks, trying to equate copying with deprivation of property. Increasing the number of copies somehow results in a decrease in… what, exactly? Certainly not in the amount of money available to creators, which is precious little to begin with.
Sharing isn’t stealing, it’s the opposite of stealing. And sharing certainly isn’t like boarding ships on the high seas, holding the crew at gunpoint, and stealing their cargo!